10 Best Seiko Dive Watches in 2020 (Automatic and Quartz)

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If there’s one watchmaker who’s renowned for making the best dive watches, it has to be Seiko. With a wide selection of great value, there’s a reason why most Seiko releases become instant and lasting fan favorites – you can tell by the watch nicknames.

As of 2020, there are ten worthy contenders of being your next dive watch. Ranging from classic black to reflective blue and green dials, Seiko keeps innovating dive watch designs every year. Let’s see what they’ve got in store for us this year – maybe it’s time to add another watch to your collection which will last a lifetime.

Our top picks

  1. Top Pick: King Turtle SRPC41
  2. Premium Pick: Sumo SBDC081
  3. Budget Choice: Solar SNE435
  4. Most Unique: Samurai SRPD23
  5. For small wrists: Mini Turtle SRPC41
  6. Best design: Monster SRPD25
  7. Affordable Automatic: Turtle SRPA21
  8. Analog/Digital Hybrid: Arnie SNJ025
  9. Fashionable choice: Street Series SNE537
  10. Cult Classic: SKX009

If you need to jump to a specific section in the article, please click on the link in the Table of Contents here:

Our Top Picks for Seiko Dive Watches

AUTOMATICS

1. SKX007 and SKX009

1. Seiko SKX007 and SKX009 automatik movement with 200m water resistance
Featured: SKX009 because the SKX007 price is too high now

Fan Favorite

Every Seiko owner is now familiar with the SKX007 and SKX009 divers. With their debut in 1996, they have captured the Seiko fan-base as an extremely affordable and versatile ISO 6425 compliant dive watch under $200.

In 2019 Seiko discontinued the SKX007 and SKX009 – replacing them with the Seiko 5 Sports “5KX” model line. While many fans had eagerly anticipated a re-release of the SKX007 for years, Seiko left us dissappointed with the 5KX release. Though the movement is upgraded (to the 4R36), the rest of the watch is a downgrade from a dive watch perspective.

These days, the SKX007 and SKX009 enjoy popularity on the second-hand market, where they are frequently modded with custom parts for the bezel, crown, bracelet, hands, and dial. The movement is frequently swapped for the more accurate and affordable NH36.

As of 2020, this watch is out of stock in most places, or the price has shot up significantly. If you really want the SKX007 – one of Seiko’s best-loved divers – your best bet is to pick it up used on eBay.

Many watchmakers and retailers have jumped to fill the void of the near-$200 diver, yet the jury is still out on which watch occupies that niche. For now, the SKX007 is still a respectable mainstay in any watch collection.

Pros
  • Best-value Seiko dive watch (formerly)
  • ISO 6425 compliant
  • Cult classic
  • Fan favorite for modding
  • Recognizable by any watch fan
Cons
  • Discontinued
  • Outdated 7S26 movement
  • No hacking or hand-winding
  • Complaints about bracelet quality

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 7S26 Automatic (self-winding)
  • Diameter: 42.5mm x 13mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $250-$350

2. Turtle SRPA21

2. Seiko PADI Turtle automatik movement with 200m water resistance
Seiko Turtle – PADI edition

Best First Watch

Released in 2016, the Seiko “Turtle” has quickly taken the spot as one of the best automatic entry-level dive watches you can buy. With it’s signature cushion-style case, it commands a high degree of wrist presence and respect, while exuding vintage vibes.

The Seiko Turtle is a re-release of the Seiko 6306 and 6309 watches (ca. 1976-1988) for the post-quartz world. This new Turtle has an updated movement (4R36) and water resistance (200m).

An intriguing aspect of this watch is the wide range of models and editions that are available – from the reflective blue PADI Turtle to the limited edition Prospex “Save the Ocean” models, and many more that are rarer and hard to find. However, the blue PADI version is considered the best choice from the standard collection due to it’s reflective dial and ready availability.

While the Turtle seems larger given it’s cushion case, it’s actually on the conservative side at 44.3mm for a “larger” dive watch. Given that the size is from a flat case and not the dial, it wears closer to a 42.5mm watch.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • ISO 6425 compliant
  • Tons of special and limited editions
  • Classic/vintage cushion case design
Cons
  • Not ideal for smaller wrists
  • Not good for someone who wants a more modern design

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 4R36 Automatic (self-winding)
  • Diameter: 44.3mm x 14mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $200-$350

3. Samurai SRPD23

3. Seiko Samurai automatik movement with 200m water resistance
Seiko Samurai – Save the Ocean (Great White) edition

Most Unique

The Samurai is one of the top contenders for the best Seiko dive watch that’s also affordable and reliable. Re-released in 2017, the Samurai has earned it’s nickname due to its unique lugs and sharp case shape.

Other distinct features that make it great are the gnarled crown and bezel, which add a lot of “tool watch” character. The new Samurai Save the Ocean has an updated set of hands that are as aggressive as the case itself – sharp arrows and harpoon-like dimensions.

Since it’s re-release, Seiko has been pushing out a new “special” and “limited edition” of this watch and the Turtle, with some beautiful dial designs in the “Save the Ocean” and “Blue Lagoon” editions.

Pros
  • Gnarled crown and bezel
  • Angular case and hands
  • Beautiful special and limited editions
  • Modern style
Cons
  • Low-quality bracelet
  • Date window can be slightly misaligned

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 4R35 Automatic (self-winding)
  • Dimensions: 43.5mm x 13.5mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $300-$400

4. Mini Turtle SRPC41 (AKA “Baby Turtle”)

4. Seiko Mini Turtle automatik movement with 200m water resistance
Seiko Mini Turtle – PADI edition

Best for Small Wrists

Released in 2017, and dubbed the “Mini-Turtle,” this watch is a more modern and compact adaptation of the classic Seiko Turtle. While the hands remain the same, the rest of the watch offers a never-before-seen interpretation on the modern diver that’s ideal for smaller wrists.

For those who find the size of the Seiko Turtle to be prohibitive, this slimmer version is a blessing. While still retaining many of the Turtle characteristics, it sports a distinct curving set of lugs to rein in the size.

The Mini Turtle also has a small cyclops magnifier on the crystal over the date window – some people love it, others don’t. Overall it’s a unique look to stand out from the crowd.

Pros
  • Cyclops on crystal
  • Distinct curved lugs
  • Great for smaller wrists
Cons
  • May be slightly overpriced at the moment
  • No affordable editions with reflective dials

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 4R35 Automatic (self-winding)
  • Dimensions: 42.3mm x 13mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $300-$500

5. King Turtle SRPE05

5. Seiko King Turtle automatik movement with 200m water resistance

Best Value

Seiko fans can be quite loud with their feedback, and the Japanese watchmaker doesn’t always hear us properly across the vast ocean. However, the King Turtle represents an unprecedented answer to our prayers – a Seiko Turtle with all the upgrades fans have been begging for (with a commensurate price increase).

This diver comes with a sapphire crystal (upgrade over regular Hardlex) with a cyclops over the day-date window. It also has a ceramic bezel insert upgrade, and has more angular grooving textures for easier gripping.

The King Turtle models all look like Special Editions of the regular turtle, with distinctive dials to match. The most interesting one is the checkered olive drab green “Clous de Paris” dial pictured, giving it a paramilitary look.

Overall, the features on the King Turtle should start to become standard before too long – other watchmakers are already producing divers with these features for less, so Seiko can’t fall too far behind.

Pros
  • Upgraded crystal (sapphire)
  • Upgraded bezel insert (ceramic)
  • Upgraded bezel (better grooves)
  • Distinctive dials
Cons
  • Same movement (4R36) as regular Turtle
  • May be cheaper to mod your own Seiko to get these upgrades

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 4R36 Automatic (self-winding)
  • Dimensions: 45mm x 13mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $300-$600

6. Monster SRPD25

6. Seiko Monster automatik movement with 200m water resistance

Most Aggressive Design

The Seiko Monster is a name given to one of Seiko’s most aggressive-looking divers. Full of sharp angles on the hands, indices, and case, looking at this watch is like staring into a shark’s open mouth. Because it’s so aggressive, it disturbs the zen peace of many collectors, but is beloved for that reason by many more.

The Monster is currently on it’s 4th generation of production, and they’re getting better with every release. Many of the 1st and 2nd gen monsters have become extremely rare and collectible for their history, but these 4th gen models are considerably nicer.

Most of the 4th gen Monsters have beautiful reflective dials, and have movements upgraded for the modern era. Additionally, they come with cyclops magnifiers over the day-date window. Depending on the model, you can get a crazy good deal online for them, like this SRPD25.

Pros
  • Updated case and movement
  • Beautiful reflective dials
  • Lots of bargain prices if you get lucky
Cons
  • Cyclops?
  • Bracelet is okay

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 4R36 Automatic (self-winding)
  • Diameter: 42mm x 13mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $200-$600

7. Sumo SBDC081

7. Seiko Sumo automatik movement with 200m water resistance

Premium Pick

The Seiko Sumo is quickly climbing to the next tier of divers. Originally released in 2007, the watch gained the name due to it’s fat 10-minute markers on the bezel, and wider shape (it’s the widest watch on this list so far).

Back then, it was a few bucks more than the Samurai, and buyers couldn’t make up their minds on which was the better deal. Two generations later (now on 3rd gen), and the Sumo is in a new class, with an upgraded movement (6R35), power reserve (70 hours from 50 hours), and crystal (sapphire upgrade).

Interestingly for such a wide watch (45mm diameter), the lug width is a relatively thin 20mm, making the high-quality-finished bracelet fit snugly and thinly over the wrist.

The Sumo is one of Seiko’s most underrated and underestimated divers, and it’s quality is certainly a notch above the rest in it’s price point. If you can get your hands on the 2nd gen Sumo, you’re getting a mighty good deal, albeit with a slighlty older movement.

Pros
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Higher-tier movement
  • Many dial colors and editions
  • Tip-top quality
Cons
  • On the larger side
  • Big price increase over 2nd gen

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko 6R35 (3rd Gen) or 6R15 (2nd Gen) Automatic
  • Diameter: 45mm x 12.9mm thick
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $450-$850

QUARTZ

12. Street Series SNE537

Best Fashion Choice (Urban)

Introduced in late 2018, the “Street Series” solar divers bring back a familiar aesthetic in a modern interpretation. Inspired by Seiko’s 1975 release and now-ubiquitous “tuna can” appearance due to the bezel shroud, the Street Series is adapted to the 2020 era in a fitting way.

This line of watches has three models – the light gray, olive drab green, and blue. These colors are prevalent on the dial and the case itself, as well as coming with matching silicone straps.

The Street Series is powered by a quartz solar movement; the added durability and bugout aesthetic makes it the perfect survivalist watch. Stealthy and urban, the subdued markers on the bezel give it a tacti-cool vibe that’s both fashionable and combat-ready.

Coming at a very affordable price point, and armed with the requisite PROSPEX 200m water resistance and ISO 6425 rating, the Seiko solar Street Series collection is a durable long-term solution to your everyday and dive watch needs.

Pros
  • Classic “tuna can” design
  • Tactical and fashionable
  • Protective bezel shroud
  • Ideal for survival and everyday carry
Cons
  • Large Seiko Tuna size

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko V157 Quartz (solar-powered)
  • Diameter: 47mm
  • Thickness: 12.4mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $300-$500

10. Seiko Solar SNE435

10. Seiko Solar SNE437P1 automatik movement with 200m water resistance

Budget Quartz Option

If you want an expensive-looking diver without breaking the bank, this Seiko Solar SNE435 is your choice. While rocking a sporty red-and-blue aesthetic, this watch is diving ready at an affordable price.

The round markers on the dial are robust and pronounced, and the dial is a reflective sunburst blue. It houses the solar-powered V157 movement that’s found in many Seikos – a reliable solar workhorse movement.

The watch is properly-sized, sitting neither too big nor small for most wrists. My only complaint is that it’s a bit boring – it doesn’t have any distinguishing Seiko aesthetic features, and so looks a bit like a generic sports watch. Additionally, some customers find that it doesn’t hold a great charge and needs to be constantly in the light.

Pros
  • Great proportions
  • Affordable solar diver
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Doesn’t hold a great charge
  • Generic sport watch aesthetic

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko V157 Quartz (solar-powered)
  • Diameter: 43.5mm
  • Thickness: 14mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $200-$300

11. Arnie SNJ025

11. Seiko Arnie automatik movement with 200m water resistance

Best for large wrists

Re-released in 2019, the Seiko Arnie is affectionately named after the greatest 80’s action star: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who famously wore the original model in both Predator and Commando.

The Arnie was one of the first analog-digital hybrid watches at the time, and this re-interpretation updates it for the modern era. Coming replete with the classic “tuna can” shroud, this remains an action-packed tactical dive watch.

Being one of their only popular models to feature a digital display, Seiko has maximized it’s utility with a host of useful features: digital time (of course), alarm, second time zone, chronograph, and LCD backlight.

Overall this is a classic choice that’s both rugged and adventurous. It retains a lot of Seiko DNA while offering a glimpse into a past era where such technologies were on the forefront of watchmaking innovation. Updated in 2019, it’s the perfect military survival watch if you’re a fan of quartz.

Pros
  • Analog-Digital hybrid display
  • Clean dial design
  • Basic digital watch features
  • “Tuna can” bezel shroud
Cons
  • Quite large
  • Weak LCD backlight
  • Made in China

Model Specs

  • Movement: Seiko H851 Quartz (solar-powered Ana-Digi)
  • Diameter: 47.8mm
  • Thickness: 14.4mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Price: $250-$450

Why a Seiko Dive Watch?

There are many reasons why Seiko divers remain some of the most popular watches for both professionals and civilian “desk-diving.” Here’s a list of the top five reasons I think why they’re so popular:

Diverse Collection at Affordable Prices

The “affordability” and “value” of Seiko watches has long been touted as one of their best selling points. Specifically, you could start a multi- dive watch collection for under $500. While that seems like a lot, you’d struggle to find even one “meh” Swiss diver for the price.

SOTC Seiko diver collection
Diverse collection of Seiko divers | Credit: WUS

As you look through our list, you’ll notice that a large portion of the watches are in the “affordable” range. This doesn’t make them low quality, as all are produced to professional specifications to be used as true dive and tool watches.

This large range of aesthetic divers is a unique feature of Seiko. Not only that, but all of their designs are original, purposeful, and well-thought out.

Manufactured by one of the most reputable Japanese watchmakers

In the watch world, a brand’s reputation is largely (though not entirely) tied to it’s history and pedigree. Most of the oldest and most expensive watchmakers (at the time they were all still clock-makers) opened up shop in the early 1800’s; a few trailblazers began in the 1750s.

With over 200 years of watch manufacturing experience under their belt, many of these brands have become some of the luxury and ultra-luxury watch brands we see today.

Meanwhile, Seiko started up in 1882, making it the oldest non-Western (Japanese) watchmaker with over 120 years of watchmaking experience (they made their first clock in 1892). In 1969, Seiko released the first commercially-available quartz-movement watch, and put over 1000 Swiss companies out of business overnight.

Seiko Marinemaster 300 with lume
Gorgeous Japanese craftsmanship on the Seiko Marinmaster | Credit: andrysetiawan

All of that to say that Seiko is one of the oldest, established, and reputable watch brands in the world. Sometimes you might doubt their design decisions from just seeing the photos – but when you hold it and wear it you will realize this: Seiko has a ton of experience. They know what they’re doing. They frequently pioneer technologies, methods, and aesthetics that take a few years to catch on, but you can trust their watches with your life.

Produced to Professional Specifications (PROSPEX)

With the exception of the lowest-priced SKX007, all of Seiko’s divers in our list are PROSPEX-rated. As you can guess, PROSPEX stands for “Professional Specifications,” and they’re marked with a stylized ‘X’ on the dial.

This means that these diver watches are produced to a high level of specificity, including being ISO 6425 – compliant (that’s the international standard on what can be considered a dive watch).

Seiko Prospex
High-end Seiko divers with the trademark Prospex ‘X’ | Credit: Seiko

Although not all PROSPEX watches are divers, they are all made with professional use in mind. That means that they’ve been specifically engineered for their respective sport, rather than simply being “usable for it.”

Better Value Than Swiss Divers

Seiko makes some of the most affordable professional-grade dive watches on the market. By comparison, the Swiss brands from established companies don’t have a professional diver to showcase until you’re spending at least $700 .

If you look at some of the favorite Swiss divers in the same price range – Oris, Squale, and even Tag Heuer, you’d see an inferior watch costing twice as much as a Seiko. Just having “Swiss Made” on the dial inflates the price by a factor of two or three.

Although Seiko is starting to move up-market and discontinue it’s best-value affordable professional dive watches, it’s most affordable options are still a superior value over any Swiss watch for the same price.

Reliability

Reliability is simple enough to understand. You want a watch to work right out of the box, and every time you pick it up or look at it. With Seiko dive watches, you get that.

You also want it to work according to its specifications: that means being water resistant as stated, having the specified accuracy, and being completely functional in every way.

Does it need to be said? Cheaper watches (like sub-$100 Chinese ones) can be hit-or-miss. With Seiko, it’s 100% hit, even at sub-$100 and sub-$200 prices.

Reliability and function is Seiko’s primarily goal: even if they sacrifice some elements in lower-priced divers (like bracelet quality), you’ll still get a reliable working watch every time.

History of Seiko Divers

The first Seiko dive watch was the 62MAS produced in 1965. It was Japan’s first diver’s watch, with a water resistance of 150m.

In the West, dive watches had already been on the market since the 1950’s. The first modern divers are generally attributed to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Zodiac Seawolf, and Rolex Submariner.

While Seiko was technically “late to the game,” they had quite a bit of post-WWII recovering to do in Japan. Once they producing began dive watches, however, they set new records and precedents with every release, as well as booking dozens of patents.

62MAS original seiko diver 150m
Seiko’s first dive watch – the 62MAS | Credit: Seiko

In the following decades, Seiko led the way in dive watch innovation, including putting a high-beat movement in a 300m diver, developing the world’s first professional (600m) diver with a titanium case, creating the first analog-digital hybrid, and then making the first 1000m diver.

In the 1990s, Seiko focused on innovating electronic and computerized divers, as well as equipping dive watches with kinetic quartz movements. Starting in the mid-90’s and onward, Seiko began producing many of the precursor’s to today’s best-loved affordable divers, including the SKX007 and the first Monster.

In 2005, they made the world’s first Spring Drive 600m diver, which is a beautiful Seiko mechanical-quartz hybrid technology found in their most expensive watches.

Now to address a few important factors to consider when looking at Seiko dive watches:

ISO 6425 Compliance

ISO 6425 is a set of international specifications that determines what can be called a dive watch. While technically you can dive with anything that doesn’t let in water or break, a real dive watch will adhere to all or most of the ISO 6425 standards, as they were written with modern (since 1996) professional diving in mind.

All the Seiko Prospex dive watches are ISO 6425 – compliant, making them professional divers. Here are a few key elements an ISO 6425 – compliant dive watch will have:

  • Readability and legibility underwater
  • Condensation test at various temperatures
  • Durability of crowns
  • Water-tightness and water resistance
  • Thermal shock resistance
  • Time-measuring device (bezel)
  • Indication that the watch is running in total darkness (seconds hand with lume on it)
  • Magnetic resistance
  • Shock resistance
  • Resistance to salty water
  • Reliable strap / bracelet
  • Marking of “diver’s watch” or “diver’s” with water resistance limit

When looking for the best dive watch, you should make sure that it meets the ISO 6425 specifications. If for no other reason, you’ll know that you’re getting a reliable tool watch that can take a few hits in any envorinoment and keep on ticking.

Movement

Quartz vs Automatic

When choosing a Seiko diver, the first question you need to ask yourself is this: Which movement do you want – Quartz or Automatic? This question refers to the mechanism (the engine) that powers the watch.

Quartz Movement– powered by electricity (battery-powered). Most Seiko quartz watches are solar-powered.
Automatic Movement – powered by mechanical components and the kinetic energy of your wrist.

Seiko 2nd gen orange monster on a custom strap
Seiko 2nd gen Orange Monster – Automatic movement | Credit: KairosTime

Most of the dive watches on this list are automatic, and with good reason: quartz movements have only been around since 1969. Because they’re powered by an electronic circuit board, they’ve become easy to mass-produce cheaply. As a result, you get a typical ‘tick-tock’ of the second hand, ticking once per second.

Automatic watches are powered by tiny gears, springs, and levers inside the watch. This makes them very appealing to anyone that’s ever wondered how an engine, rifle, or computer works. You get an ‘automatic sweep’ of the seconds hand, which beats heartbeat-like at 6, 8, or 10 ticks per second. Typically the more expensive the watch and higher grade the movement, the smoother the sweep.

Accuracy

Dive watch accuracy is a topic that should be more important, but is usually considered an afterthought. Any watch will gain or lose seconds, and it’s only a matter of time before the time is significantly lagging.

Quartz watches are extremely accurate (since they’re powered by a battery), and you only have to reset them a couple of times per year.

Automatic watches with entry-level calibers (under $1000) are less accurate, and you need to reset them once or twice a week.

CaliberMovement TypeAccuracy
7S26 (outdated)Automatic+50 / -20 sec per day
4R35 and 4R36Automatic+45 / -35 sec per day
6R15 and 6R35Automatic+25 / -15 sec per day
8L35Automatic+15 / -10 sec per day
V157Solar Quartz+15 / -15 sec per month
H851Solar Quartz+15 / -15 sec per month
More expensive automatic Seiko divers are more accurate

Why isn’t it a big deal? Because resetting the time is a small sacrifice and takes only a few seconds per week. However, if you don’t care about watches and just need a reliable backup diving instrument, quartz is your best bet.

Note: many owners of Seiko automatic divers report an actual accuracy of a few seconds per day. While this is impressive, this should be considered an “out-of-the-box” accuracy. After a few years, the movement will “settle” closer to the specifications. However, you will still enjoy many years of extreme accuracy until then.

Watch Construction

Dial

The dial is the first thing you’ll see when you look at the watch – it’s what’s under the crystal.

In a Seiko dive watch, you’re going to get a dial that’s ISO 6425 – compliant: extremely legible. That means it’s going to be easy to tell the time with a single rapid glance.

Samurai Blue Lagoon on a black NATO wristshot
Conservative text with radiant dial – Samurai Blue Lagoon

Part of this is the amount of writing on the dial. Usually you get just a few lines:

  • Seiko: The Logo/Brand at the top
  • X or PADI: The Prospex logo to let you know it’s a serious tool watch. The PADI logo indicates roughly the same thing
  • Automatic / Solar: This tells you the type of movement
  • Diver’s 200m: The water resistance rating

The Prospex X is a relatively new element that Seiko began adding, and many long-time fans dislike it. However, it seems that it’s here to stay. You get used to it.

Why am I talking about the writing? Consider the dial like a canvas. The hands, markers, and dial text all make up the paint strokes. Every element calls your attention to some degree. Thus, from a readability and aesthetic standpoint, less is more. By comparison, a brand like Rolex has about 6 lines – too much information.

Lume

Lume is the luminescent material on the hands and indices of a watch that makes it glow in the dark. Seiko is famous for having perhaps the best lume in the entire watch industry.

In our Cold War past, watchmakers used radioactive radium for this (with disastrous consequences). In recent decades, Seiko developed LumiBrite, which “is brighter, longer-lasting and completely free of radioactive substances.”

SOTC Seiko lume comparison
Seiko dive watches have the best lume – which 3 are the divers?

Other watch companies use their own formulations of luminescent material, but in our experience – and many Seiko owners’ – Seiko lume glows the longest and the brightest, just as they claim.

If you step into sunlight (even indirect) for a few seconds with a Seiko diver, then go into a pitch dark bathroom, it’s going to light up the entire room.

Sometimes when I wake up at 4 or 5am in pitch black, I can look at my Seiko Sumo and it still has a faint glow that’s perfectly readable to my dark-adjusted eyes.

While Seiko uses LumiBrite on many of their models, their divers have extra thick application due to wider hands and hour markers to fill in.

Case and Finishing

The case is the “actual watch.” From a watchmaker perspective, it’s the case to the movement inside of it. There’s two main factors to consider in a dive watch case: case quality and pressure-resistance.

First, you already know that any Seiko diver is totally water resistant to at least 200m, and is ISO-compliant and ready for professional use out of the box.

Case quality is a different issue – this refers to the subjective feel of the steel material and tactile feedback of the finishing (polishing or brushing) on your fingers. Since all of these watches are made out of steel, the difference isn’t in the material type, but the finishing of the steel.

Seiko great wave caseback
Most Seiko dive watch casebacks have an engraving of the Great Wave | Credit: andrysetiawan

If this is your first serious watch, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference between a $200 case and a $1000 case even by holding them together. It takes a bit of attention to detail and experience but here’s what you should look for:

Does the steel feel rough or buttery? Does the brushing and polishing look/feel cheap, or of a high grade? Is there a lot of attention to detail that didn’t need to be included, like alternating brushing/polishing of surfaces, or curved steel elements that would have been easier to stamp out as a block?

You can’t tell the quality of a case from pictures, so here are a few guidelines on what to expect:

  • The case quality on Seikos’s lowest-priced diver watches is pretty decent
  • With every additional $100 that you spend, you will notice a significant improvement in finishing quality
  • Once you reach the $1000 mark, you will get diminishing returns in quality for the price paid
  • It will be difficult to determine the difference in quality between a $1000 diver and a $5000 dive watch without a microscope or a loupe

So there you have it. It’s good to know what to look for, but you don’t have to worry either way – you get what you pay for, especially in the $200-$1000 price range.

Crystal

The crystal refers to the glass covering the dial. Glass has a propensity to scratch, shatter, or both – so a watchmaker has to make a strategic decision on which to use.

Many consumers prefer a watch with a Sapphire crystal because it’s the most scratch-resistant (it’s typically found in smartphones). However, Seiko only uses Sapphire in it’s higher end-models, and some Seiko fans can get so frustrated over this that they’ll replace it themselves.

Seiko uses Hardlex for most of it’s affordable divers for one simple reason: it’s still the best for diving. Hardlex provides the most optical clarity without the need to double-apply AR (anti-reflective) coating.

However, Hardlex is more prone to scratching if you drag it across sandpaper. I’ve never actually come across a Seiko with a scratched crystal, and it’s pretty easy to avoid.

Bezel

The bezel is the bit that you can turn to mark the passage of time. Modern Seiko dive watches have a 120-click uni-directional bezel with some of the best action in the industry.

By comparison, high-end Swiss dive watches have terrible bezels that are a torture to turn and operate.

Seiko tuna can with bezel shroud marinemaster
The bezel shroud gives us the moniker “Tuna Can” on this Marinemaster | Credit: andrysetiawan

Some of Seiko’s models have “bezel shrouds” – a unique feature to Seiko to provide extra protection for the crystal and bezel. Don’t worry about these unless you’re a hardcore pro. These give the watch a certain “Tuna Can” appearance, hence the nicknames.

Crown

The crown is the portion of the watch that you operate to set the time / date / etc. There’s two configurations for the crown in a Seiko diver:

  • 3 o’clock – typical in watches, uncommon in Seiko dive watches
  • 4 o’clock – common in most Seiko divers, prevents the crown from digging into your bent wrist

There’s not much difference in these, but it’s somethig to look out for. True to dive watch requirements, Seiko crowns are all screw-down to prevent water intrusion. This means that you’ll have to unscrew the crown in order to set the time or wind the watch.

One last note: higher-priced Seiko divers have a signed crown. That’s a stylistic mini-logo engraved into the crown surface. It adds an extra layer of detail that gives the watch a higher quality.

Bracelet

The bracelet is one of the few areas that get complaints from owners. In lower-priced dive watches, Seiko will cut corners on the bracelet to keep costs down. This can include having hollow end-links and cheaper material on some of the hidden parts when it’s locked in place.

SKX007 on stock jubilee
SKX007 on a jubilee bracelet | Credit: andrysetiawan

However, for the most part I’ve found that many of the Seiko dive watches have pretty comfortable bracelets and they’re not worth complaining about.

Just expect that you get what you pay for, and that Seiko may make some compromises on some bracelets at lower price-points.

Misalignments

This is a good section to mention one fault of Seiko divers: misalignment issues. Predominantly an issue with lower-priced Seiko dive watches, there are two elements that are frequently found to have some misalignment to them:

  • The Chapter Ring – this is the ring around the outside of the dial that marks the minutes. It doesn’t lay flat, but is vertical (perpendicular) to the dial. Lower-priced Seiko divers are routinely reported to have slight misalignment of the chapter ring – a few millimetres off in this or that direction. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, it tends to bother some people who expect a higher level of quality control, and they sometimes tear their hair out cursing their misfortune over it. However, it’s not a big deal to most people because usually you really really have to look for it.
  • The Date Window – I’ve only personally seen this issue on the Samurai, but the date window isn’t fully centered in the square where the dial is cut out for it.

Wow! Those are the only negatives of some Seiko dive watches? That’s really not bad at all. If your watch has a misalignment that bothers you, just return it and re-roll your luck. Or just grin and bear it, because it’s small potatoes, and any watch will have imperfections.

Style

Let’s face it – you don’t only want to be the most fashionable guy in the SCUBA squad – you also want to look good when you hit the cocktail bar in the evening. Style is important when you’re spending big bucks on a state-of-the art timepiece, all else being equal.

Design

When scrolling through our top picks for 2020, you’ll notice that – at a glance – the divers all have many family resemblances: circular or bar hour markers, bezels marked every ten minutes in arabic numerals, and thick lumed hands with a pip on the seconds hand.

Seiko Pepsi Sumo with springbars removed
The Seiko “Pepsi Sumo”

This is all with reason and purpose: the designs are descendants of the original dive watches (Rolex’s in 1953 and Seiko’s 62MAS in 1965). The two companies really hit the nail on the head with the designs, and decades later, they persist in modern adaptations.

However, this is a note to take seriously – every single Seiko diver is a unique design. Most other watch companies who put out a diver will generally just clone a Rolex Submariner and put their own name on the dial. Not Seiko – they are constantly evolving and expanding their artistic portfolio, and any watch you get here will be unique and distinctly designed.

Size

The size of the watch will determine how it will fit. Given their extra bulk for water resistance, you won’t have to worry about dive watches being too small, only too big. Here are three size measurements you need to consider:

  • Diameter – this is the size of the watch across, not including the crown. Modern divers mostly range from 40mm to 46mm in diameter. This 6mm spread may seem like nothing, but it can mean the difference between wearing a too-big watch or just right. This will correspond to how wide the watch sits on your wrist. Diameter determines “how it will wear” or “how it will look.”
  • Lug-to-lug width – this is a less-often considered metric for choosing watch size. You could have a very small-diameter watch with very long lugs, or vice-versa. You don’t have to worry about this case with Seiko divers, as their lug-to-lug distances are very well proportioned to the diameter. This is nice, as you only need to pay attention to the one metric.

You should also consider the thickness of the watch, but it’s usually proportional to the top two measures. Anything over 15mm thickness should give you pause, and anything under that is fair game.

Without getting into the inches and millimeters, here’s a general rule of thumb. The final determination of how the watch fits will be to actually try in on:

Smaller wrists: diameter of 42mm and under
Larger wrists: diameter of 40mm and over

Dial Color

It seems like 70% of people will always get a black-dial watch. It’s safe, it’s versatile, and it’s timeless. However, Seiko makes some of the most beautiful colorful and reflective dials of any watchmaker, and I urge you to consider one of those models.

Seiko Coral sumo reflective blue on black NATO strap
Stunning reflective blue of the “Coral Sumo”

Any old watchmaker can make a boring black dial. I would recommend saving that purchase for when you buy a field watch from a boring company. But Seiko makes the most extraordinary reflective blues, greens, oranges, and many other colored dials in the business. They shine sunburst-like in many different lights, and make your heart flutter at a personal masterpiece of art.

But like I said, 70% of people will always get the black dial version for one reason or another. I used to be that way, but nobody was around to tell me to consider the alternative; now I am telling you.

There is one big advantage of black dials over colorful dials: black-dialed watches will work with many more strap options.

Strap Options

Every watch in this list comes either on a bracelet or a rubber strap. Both are removable in the same way – tiny metal spring bars. If you’ve ever removed a spring-powered toilet paper roll-holder, you know roughly how to operate them.

After that, you can attach anything from a $5 strap to a $200 Italian leather strap to a rubber, bracelet, NATO, canvas, anything you like. You can essentially customize the look of the watch all day long.

SKX007 on a orange and black NATO strap
SKX007 on an orange-black NATO strap | Credit: matslean

The relevant measurement to look for is the lug width – it’s almost always going to be either 20mm or 22mm. It’s just an important metric to note when buying a watch, as you want to make sure all your straps will fit.

Special Editions

PROSPEX

POSPEX stands for “Professional Specification.” It’s a model line of Seiko’s watches (including most of their dive watches) that indicates that they are produced to high standards meant for real professional use.

These watches are denoted by a stylized ‘X’ on the dial.

PADI

The PADI logo and color-scheme | Credit: PADI

PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Seiko is an official partner with PADI, and makes certain dive watches with their logo on it as variants on popular models.

The dive watches made for PADI all take on the organization’s red and blue color scheme. PADI divers are marked as such, and the ‘PADI’ writing replaces the PROSPEX ‘X’ on the dial.

PADI divers are also PROSPEX-rated.

LX

The LX model line is derived from the Latin “lux” or “light.” LX denotes Seiko’s top-of-the-line PROSPEX divers, which have been engineered to be extra beautiful in how they reflect light off the case.

LX is a special level of attention to detail given to the highest-end Seiko PROSPEX divers, to give them “a thoroughly contemporary feel.”

These watches are not marked with any special designation, but they cost $5000+.

Price Points

How much can you expect to spend on a high-quality professional Seiko diver? The watches on this list range from about $200 to $1000, but I may include higher-priced options in the future.

While quality and bells-and-whistles increase noticeably with every $100 you spend up to $1000, the cheapest options on our list are just as robust and reliable as the most expensive. Here are some guidelines on what to expect for the price:

  • under $300 – any Seiko diver is a good deal at this price, but there’s not many choices left in 2020
  • $300 to $600 – Most of the best-value divers are in this range
  • $600 to $1000 – you’re spending a little more for some upgraded parts, movements, and case quality
  • $1000+ – top-of-the-line models with expensive upgrades

To reiterate, spending more money won’t make it better for diving, it’ll just make it a better watch.

Final Thoughts: Does Seiko Make the Best Dive Watch?

We’ve gone over a lot of stuff here and it’s probably been overwhelming, but if you’re looking to purchase your first Seiko dive watch, I recommend doing your research.

With this guide you’ll know what to look for in a Seiko diver when you get it in the mail. More importantly, these considerations are applicable to all watches you’ll ever buy or consider buying.

SOTC a collection of seiko divers
So many Seiko dive watches, so little time | Credit: andrysetiawan

Seiko is a fan-favorite for a reason – you don’t have to nitpick and second-guess your choice – the quality, durability, and legacy is guaranteed in the name. Customers are still wearing watches they bought in the 80s (that’s over 25 years)! Today, with improved technologies and manufacturing standards, I wouldn’t be surprised if any watch on this list lasted past 2070. That’s not something a lot of watchmakers can claim.

As a final note: if you go into the water with any of these Seiko dive watches, be sure that the crown is fully screwed down!

So does Seiko make the best dive watches in 2020? I’d certainly say so – they’re the first option I’d recommend to anyone.

Love your Seiko diver but don’t see it inlcuded in our list? Please let me know in the comments below!

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